TO two Columbus women who knew her back when, Nancy Hamilton was much more than the spouse of a famous person.
Make no mistake, she was married to a very famous individual. Her husband, Lee Hamilton, served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He came to be known not as a politician but a statesman. His name was on numerous short lists when presidents or presidential candidates were trying to fill key positions, such as vice president or secretary of state. He often was put forth by pundits as a man of presidential material himself.
Throughout his career, Nancy was often in the background, a role she might have preferred but one in which she was able to be her own person — supportive of her husband but dedicated to other pursuits as well.
“Family was always first with her,” said Pat Bush, who with her husband, Ben, a retired Cummins executive, was instrumental in the Hamiltons moving to Columbus in the late 1950s. “She kept the home fires burning and was still able to handle the role of a congressman’s wife.”
Virginia Stoner was one of the first local residents to welcome the newcomers to the city. She laughed when she recalled that first visit.
“Nancy invited me into the house, and as we talked I noticed she was dipping her spoon into a cup of coffee and giving it to her baby (Tracy) to drink. I questioned her about it, and she said that she always loved coffee and wanted to share that love with Tracy.”
From those early days evolved lifelong friendships between the families. Although the Hamiltons eventually would leave Columbus after he won election to the House in 1964, a bond had been established. It was a bond that was suddenly and tragically disrupted Saturday when Nancy was killed in an accident near her Bloomington home. In the news reports following the accident, she was frequently referred to as the wife of Lee Hamilton. Her two friends who still live in Columbus remember much more.
“She was always by his side and was very supportive of Lee,” Virginia said. “Still there were parts of that role that she didn’t like. She especially hated it when he was away for extended periods of time.”
Despite those concerns, she retained many of the qualities that marked her as independent.
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